Gerard did as he had been instructed. Remaining in the library with Lady Fallbridge, they both listened in silence to the increasingly frantic whispers and footsteps which echoed throughout the majestic townhouse.
"Miss Lennie," Gerard said finally. "I cannot sit here."
"You must, Gerard." Lennie replied gently. She forced a smile. "We can't risk you seeing your bride before she meets you at the altar. It's bad luck."
"She ain't here, Miss." Gerard replied quietly. "I know she ain't. Ain't worse luck than that."
"Well, we'll find her."
"You ain't as calm as you seem, Miss Lennie. I mean no disrespect, but I know ya. And, I can see in your eyes that somethin' is terrible wrong."
"Yes, Gerard, I'm concerned. We're all concerned, but you heard my brother and Dr. Halifax. You heard what they said. They're sure Gamilla is near and they will return her home."
"If she's nearby, Miss, then why did they send the driver with a message for Her Majesty? Why did Charles and George go out in such a hurry?"
"Charles and George have gone to check the shops and stalls." Lennie answered.
"And, the message to the Queen?"
To be safe, Gerard." Lennie inhaled. "It's good to have the support of the palace--in case."
Gerard rubbed his eyes. "In case?" He nodded. "Where were His Grace and Lord Colinshire goin', then?"
"They'd gone to get dressed." Lennie smiled weakly.
"After that?" Gerard shook his head. "I heard 'em on the stairs. I heard their boots, Miss. I heard their voices."
"Oh, yes. I believe that my brother and Robert went to search a few places which Gamilla likes to visit. You know how she enjoys the city. Perhaps she went to the flower stalls or to Covent Garden or..."
"She ain't none of those places." Gerard stood up. "And, that ain't where the masters went. You think if I go to this windows and look out I won't see His Grace and His Lordship headed to Hamish House?"
"No one said anything to me about Hamish House." Lennie said quickly, rising to take Gerry by the arm. "Do come and sit with me."
"They got her, Lady Fallbridge." Gerard snapped. "That Ulrika Rittenhouse and Orpha Polk. I know they do."
"How could they?" Lennie replied.
"You know how wicked Orpha Polk is!" Gerard replied. "No one knows better than you--the woman whose name she stole. And, though you've seen a bit of that Rittenhouse woman's treachery, I can tell you much, much more 'bout it. I done battle with her when we was in America, Miss Lennie. I've looked her square in the eye. I seen nothin' but evil starin' back."
"I know a bit of what you endured in America, Gerard." Lennie replied soothingly.
"I don't mean to be so harsh." Gerard rubbed his forehead.
"You're frightened. I understand." Lennie said. "Now, come and sit with me again. Please."
Gerard nodded. "I feel helpless."
"You're nothing of the sort."
"In three hours time, I'm to marry the woman I love. She's lost and..."
"You mentioned America," Lennie interrupted. "Gamilla's told me how you met there when His Lordship welcomed you into the staff of the house that my brother had leased."
Gerard nodded. "She hated me."
"I doubt that."
"No, she did." Gerard shook his head. "Why shouldn't she? I'd been nothing but trouble. I was a prisoner what escaped a prison barge with one of your brother's most dangerous enemies."
"Arthur." Lennie nodded. "His former valet. The man who..."
"Who ruined His Grace's other sister." Gerard sighed. "I didn't like the man. In fact, I tried to kill 'im on the prison barge. But, we escaped together. I never...I never liked what he was doin'. Then the Yellow Fever killed 'im and...well, Dr. Halifax gave me a chance. Who was I? Who was I that such a fine man should welcome me into his household. An orphan from Australia. Shuttled off to relatives in Wales, sent to Bristol where I robbed a nobleman, sentenced to hard labor on a barge takin' me back to Australia where I'd spend my life with sheep and criminals."
"Gerard, you quickly proved your worth, your goodness. My brother and Robert have told me of those early days."
"The housekeeper there, Meridian--she told me to be true to what I was. So, I tried. I'd been watchin' Gamilla when I saw her in the kitchens of that house in that strange land. I wanted to talk to her, but she was so beautiful and..."
"But, you finally did speak to her." Lennie smiled. "Obviously."
"You know what she said to me on that night I first spoke to her?"
"No." Lennie shook her head.
"She said, 'Get out of here, damn you!"
"She didn't?" Lennie chuckled.
"Oh, yes, Miss. She did. Charlie and me had been causin' some trouble. We'd found the Duke's sister...his...his other sister, Miss...I..."
"You needn't worry, Gerard. I know all about the former Lady Barbara."
"Well, we'd found her. She'd gone mad. Charlie was in love with her. See, Charlie wasn't as agreeable in those days as he is now. He insisted we bring her back to the house and Gamilla wanted no part of it. But, my Gamilla, she's so gentle, I knew she'd not throw the woman, no matter how bad she was, out in the street. Charlie took Barbara to Gamilla's room and I stayed behind. I got up enough courage to finally talk to Gamilla..."
Gerard closed his eyes and remembered.... He could smell the humid Louisiana Kitchen and the constant aroma of coffee. He recalled, as if it was just happening that night. But, most of all, he could see Gamilla, stunning in her turquoise blue head-wrap, her beautiful face and her full mouth. He loved her at once, her fierceness, her loyalty, her humor. He remembered the very words Gamilla had spoken as she entreated Charles to get the Duke's youngest sister out of the way...
“Get her out of Meridian’s kitchen now!” Gamilla waved her arms.
“Thank you, Gamilla.” Charles nodded as he carried Barbara from the kitchen.
“Don’t go thankin’ me!” Gamilla shouted. “This ain’t my business.” She looked at Gerard once Charles had left. “I ‘spose you had somethin’ for to do with this?”
“I did.” Gerard nodded.
“You’re a bad lot, all you foreigners. Where you from anyway?”
“Born in Australia." Gerard replied. "Most recently, from Bristol."
“You don’t talk like His Grace.”
“Well, I grew up in a different country. Besides, the Duke speaks like a nobleman.” Gerry smiled. “I didn’t have that luxury.”
“You don’t talk like them Halifaxes or even Mr. Punch.”
“The doctor and his brother are Londoners of a lesser class than His Grace. They speak as others of their kind do. They try to sound noble, but just can’t get it quite right. As for Mr. Punch, well, I ‘spose he talks like what a puppet might.”
“You’re a bad lot, all of ya.” Gamilla frowned. “Now, sit your cold rear down and let me get ya some coffee. Ain’t no point in havin’ ya freeze to death.”
“You’re a good woman, ‘Milla.”
“My name is Ga-milla.” She responded, emphasizing the first two letters.
“I know. I guess I was just tryin’ to give ya a pet name.”
“What for?” Gamilla frowned.
“Cuz maybe I like you.”
“Hmmph.” Gamilla snorted.
“I ain’t never really knew someone like you before. Sure, there was some of your folks on the ship, but I never talked to ‘em. You’re right nice people.”
“You mean you never talked to an African girl before?”
“Well, you come to the right place for it.” Gamilla sighed.
“You’re pretty, you know.” Gerard smiled.
“Cut that out and drink your coffee.” She plunked a cup in front of him. “We ain’t got no time for such foolishness. You warm yourself up and get out."
“Right,” Gerard nodded, gulping his hot coffee.
“Not so fast. No sense burnin’ your tongue on it. Fool.”
“I’m strong enough.” Gerard winked after a gulp.
“Now, go on.” Gamilla swatted at Gerard with a rag.
“Yes, ma’am.” Gerard grinned. “What about Miss Allen?”
“She’s Charles problem.” Gamilla snapped. “But, maybe I’ll look in on her if I feel like it.”
“You’re a good woman.”
“Get out of here, damn you.” Gamilla barked.
Gerard opened his eyes and quickly rose again.
"Gerard?" Lennie asked.
"I'm sorry, my Lady. I wanna do what's asked o' me, but I can't be expected to sit here and wait. If anythin' happens to my 'Milla, I'm gonna tear off people's heads. I'm goin' to find 'er myself! I'm goin' to Hamish House. If the masters is there, we'll fight 'em together. If not, I'll do it on me own!"
"Well, then, I'm coming with you." Lennie nodded.
"Look, Gerard. You know said yourself, no one knows better than I how treacherous Orpha is. You know Ulrika. I know Orpha."
Together, they rushed from the library.
Did you miss Chapters 1-357 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 359.